Merivale chefs name their top picks for this year’s ‘March Into Merivale’ festival

It’s not long now until the big launch of March Into Merivale, the renowned hospitality group’s annual festival which gives them a chance to celebrate their acclaimed team of chefs and bartenders through a series of food and drink events, catering for a massive range of tastes. This year also marks one of the biggest in Merivale’s history as they welcome a string of anticipated venues like Queen Chow (Enmore’s former Queen Victoria Hotel), Fred’s, and the much-buzzed-about The Newport, in addition to recent openings like The Paddington and J&M. Undoubtedly we’ll be celebrating and previewing these new venues throughout the month of events, as well as looking into established treasures like Mr Wong, Uccello and Papi Chulo, and to gauge just what’s in store for the public the AU review caught up with group chefs David Lovett and Christopher Hogarth to talk March Into Merivale, this year’s theme of “Guilty Pleasures”, their picks of the program, and more.

David Lovett (Uccello)

daviduccello

Uccello and ivy Pool Club have become more closely tied recently with the pool’s makeover. How has this been for you and what has the reception been like?

We’re now giving guests at the pool the opportunity to eat Uccello quality and style food, a few more options for them and making it a little more Italian too. Pizza is still a big deal outside but the swordfish and meatballs are now giving it a run for their money.

The theme for March Into Merivale this year is “guilty pleasures”. What are some of your guilty pleasure foods around Sydney?

A full Irish breakfast at the garden cafe on Bronte Rd is certainly one! It’s got everything I want for breakfast, bacon, egg, black pudding, white pudding, beans, sausage, mushrooms and toasted white bread!! A gelato at Riva Reno is a favourite too.

March Into Merivale has such a massive program for this year. What are your top picks?

[The] Launch [party] and European Laneway are always a blast! So many great chefs showing off their goods in one place. And the all pleasure no guilt will also be a wonderful evening, I’d probably rather be a guest that night rather than a chef…!

The launch party is always such a huge showcase of where all the Merivale chefs are currently at with dishes and the like. What dishes do you have planned for the launch party?

I’ll be doing a wonderful ragu using all the extremities of Richard Gunners heritage beef. The steaks are amazing but I want to show off all the bits that don’t get all the press, cheeks, shanks, tail and tongues. That’ll be served with freshly made caserecce (pasta) and Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano. Also a wood roasted lamb rack, whipped buffalo ricotta and peas.

You’re involved in European Laneway this year, always one of the most popular events at MIM. What can we expect this year and how has the event changed over the past years?

Yeah it’s always a fab event, and always some friendly competition to see who sells the most!! I’ll be doing some Italian classics this year, polpette in sugo, octopus salad and tiramisu!

These past few months and the months ahead have seen and will see such big changes for Merivale. What are you most excited about and what has so far been the most exciting change for you?

Yeah we’re certainly growing at a great rate of knots! Patrick and Chris at Queen Chow in Enmore is one thing in really looking forward too, Papi Chulo is one of my favourite places to eat, so [I’m looking forward to] seeing what the boys do with Chinese food!!

Christopher Hogarth (Papi Chulo; Queen Chow)

christophermerivale

Papi Chulo is now very well established in Manly. How would you describe the evolution of Papi Chulo from opening to now?

Papi Chulo’s evolution has been a beast, when we first opened everybody wanted to try the BBQ. Now we sell just as much seafood as we do BBQ. Not a great deal has changed in terms of the balance of things on the menu although I’d like to think that the offering today is better than ever and forever changing with the seasons. We have a solid base of regular clientele and locals, so that’s been something that has evolved in the past two years.

The theme for March Into Merivale this year is “guilty pleasures”. What are some of your guilty pleasure foods around Sydney?

My wife buys me a Messina cake every year for my birthday so that’s definitely atop of the list. I love Peter Gilmore’s desserts at Quay and now Bennelong. And of course anything and everything on the menu at MsG’s – that’s my ultimate guilty pleasure.

March Into Merivale has such a massive program for this year. What are your top picks?

My top pick for the MIM program this year is Coogee Foreshore Festival – it’s a great family event and I love getting outdoors to cook and meet people in other parts of Sydney like Coogee!

The launch party is always such a huge showcase of where all the Merivale chefs are currently at with dishes and the like. What dishes do you have planned for the launch party?

For the El Loco stall we’ll have a pork belly and kimchi tacos, Papi Chulo will have Cowra lamb ribs and something light that will also showcase our seafood game.

Is it possible we could be getting a preview of Queen Victoria [Queen Chow]? How has plans for that been coming along?

Yes there will be a preview of Queen Chow! We’ll have a stall at the launch party with Eric Koh’s dim sum on offer. QVH is on its way – the teams are ready and waiting to get in there by the end of April hopefully.

You’re involved in Wok On this year. What can we expect from the event?

We can expect it to be a huge success as it has been for the past couple of years, Patrick, Jason and I will be serving up a taste of what’s to come at QVH alongside some other Merivale talent, so don’t miss out!

These past few months and the months ahead have seen and will see such big changes for Merivale. What are you most excited about and what has so far been the most exciting change for you?

For me the most exciting thing is seeing young chefs who’ve been with the Merivale group for a while work their way up into some career defining opportunities, Merivale keeps adding talent with expansion which is great to be a part of when chefs like Ben Greeno, Danielle Alvarez and Sebastian Lutaud are all now on board.

March Into Merivale’s Launch Party is happening on Wednesday 10th February at ivy. For a full list of events during March Into Merivale click HERE